Mayo Uno 2014 (Labor Day in Manila)


May 1, 2014. It was the reportedly the hottest day of the year to date, and perhaps no other description can be more apt to figuratively describe the intensity of the passion that filled those who participated in the annual protest rally. Tens of thousands filled the plaza around the monument of Gat Andres Bonifacio in Lawton, as the same deluge marched the streets of midtown Manila to Mendiola to reaffirm the demands of the working class and other sectors of society for social justice.

Labor Day in Manila 2012

This is the Power I referred to earlier – a living, communal constellation of complex, intelligent, fair-minded civic interests most days rendered indecipherable and at times inaccessible by mass media’s atomizing officiating of hegemony passed off as reality. As if only mobilization and manifestation of struggle were, for the moment at least, really capable of displacing the reactionary capture and expropriation of peoples’ collective will. – Jonathan Beller, Labor Day Manifestation

An estimated 20,000 Filipinos trooped to the streets of Manila on Labor Day to demand a nationwide wage hike and to protest against government inaction on massive unemployment and poverty. Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

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Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines
Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

On the laziness of many poor Filipinos

April 19, 2012. There is this prevalent and misguided notion among several sectors of the ‘educated class’ that the cause of a person’s or a family’s poverty and want is a function of one’s lack of “diskarte” as they call it, or even more insulting, a function of one’s indolence (echoing Spanish colonial friars), or worse, a function of the number of children in the family.

If that were the case, then they should agree with the idea that the primary solution, then, to the persistent poverty that cripples majority of Filipinos is a nationwide psychological self-help and motivation seminar and the mass castration and ligation of couples nationwide. But clearly, that is absurd as it is naive.

Poor millions of Filipinos are but lazy they are certainly not. They are neither a class of irresponsible offspring-makers as some insultingly try to portray them to be. God knows how many Filipinos work tirelessly in the fields and in the factories and workplaces in the country and overseas from sun-up to sundown and yet their lives do not improve. (For if you are looking for the laziest people in the planet, you need not look further than the corner offices of men and women who take no part in production but acquire the wealth of collective labor). Certainly, the hand to mouth existence of millions is not a mere consequence of individualized and separate circumstances of their God-forsaken lives, as some religious conservatives insist (and thus the solution is simply–prayer). The poverty of any one Filipino family is a condition that they share with millions of others across the archipelago, not because of some common trait of indolence or libido, but because we are all subject to the same political and economic rules of the status quo. Indeed, larger political and economic forces are behind their shared misery.

So, to my idealistic friends, who remain hopeful but misguided by the onslaught of a cacophony of bourgeois solutions to poverty: perpetual charity work, seminars, scholarship drives, outreach missions, “fun runs” just won’t do. The challenge is to unite with the different sectors of society to collectively confront the political and economic roots of this centuries-long calamity.

* Charity is a virtue?

Labor Day in Manila ’09 (Part 4)

My friends in UP and colleagues from Kabataan Party were at the Labor Day rally to affirm the workers’ sector’s causes and to push for the youth sector’s own issues intricately connected with the workers’ struggles. I’ll post some news releases below.

8 out of 10 unemployed Filipinos are youth New grads could end up idle for months, years

Kabataan Party-list Rep. Mong Palatino on Labor Day warned that majority of this year’s 900,000 new college graduates could end up idle months or even years after graduation. “The youth are always at the greatest risk in these economic downturns. Often it is young workers or new graduates who are the hardest hit,” Palatino said. “For every 10 unemployed Filipinos, five fall under the age group of 15 to 24 years,” Palatino said, citing the January 2009 Labor Force Survey. This accounts for 49.2 percent of the total number of unemployed Filipinos. If combined with the 25 to 34 age group, Palatino said the share of young Filipinos in the unemployed accounts for 80 percent of the total number of unemployed Filipinos. “Young, low-skilled workers are easily priced out of entry-level jobs. Young workers are also often disadvantaged in bargaining arrangements,” he added. “The government is trying to hide the high unemployment and underemployment rates in the country by using the call center boom and its new medical tourism program.”

“Malacanang is sponsoring call center and tourism job fairs to create an illusion that there are still decent jobs available in the country. But these jobs are market-driven, meaning they are temporary in nature and are not sustainable for young Filipinos looking for permanent careers,” Palatino said. “The government’s adherence to globalization policies which vulnerably open up the economy to unrestrained entry of foreign goods and capital is slowly killing our own enterprises, leading to mass lay-off of workers and lost job opportunities. Coupled with the present global economic meltdown, they only exacerbate the dismal conditions that our young workers and fresh graduates are already facing,” he said.

When the sun had set, people started lighting up their sulos and the thousands marched to the American Embassy in Roxas Boulevard. We were blocked by policemen in a barricade near the embassy, so we decided to hold the protest program right there and then.

Imperialist virus

“Unjust and deliberate retrenchments, slashing of wages and work shifts, and institutionalization of flexible labor schemes have become the worst epidemic ever as it has already destroyed the lives of millions throughout the world,” KMU Chairperson Elmer Labog said. “It was the big businesses mainly from the US imperialist that have created the economic crisis outbreak, and made workers bear the brunt of it to ensure their continued profiteering. Thus, Labor Day becomes most relevant to all because to defend the cause of the workers — for job security, better wages and living conditions — is to champion the interests of the greater majority, that are always subdued by the capitalist elites.” Labog added. “This May 1, we shall bring the fight at the foot of the global crisis epidemic’s mastermind: the US regime.”

The KMU-led rally trooped to the US embassy with a thousand torches and culminated the program there. “The Arroyo government, as one of the US regime’s most favorite puppets, has consistently enacted policies that make the country’s economy serve US the most, such as limitless lifting of restrictions and giving of incentives to foreign trade products, investments, and ownership. “Arroyo is even railroading the ChaCha now to gain further US support to her term extension plans, for the ChaCha will allow 100 percent foreign ownership — meaning greater US imperialist control — to Philippine resources, media, and basic government institutions. And we expect the onslaught or more lay-offs, wage cuts, and labor rights violations if foreign monopolies will have greater control of our economy,” Labog added. The Labor Day rally also served as an anti-ChaCha demonstration.

Labor Day in Manila ’09 (Part 3)

After taking some shots of the march at Quiapo, I tried to run ahead of the demonstrators to the other end of Quezon Bridge to be able to take shots of the different contingents that made up the march, from the labor and other militant leaders in front to those from the youth sector at the back. There were contingents from migrant workers, government employees, health workers, teachers, farmers, fishermen, jeepney drivers, among others.

Upon reaching Liwasang Bonifacio, the annual Labor Day program commenced. Agitating and passionate speeches from leaders of Kilusang Mayo Uno and Anakpawis were delivered. Calls reiterating the workers’ demand for the P125 across-the-board wage increase resounded in the plaza. Solidarity messages from other sectors of society, including the youth, were also delivered. There were also cultural presentations and song numbers from cultural workers’ groups.

Towards the latter part of the program, labor leaders from other countries also spoke and delivered their messages of solidarity. It was quite uplifting, and pretty amusing too when the labor delegate from Mexico chanted the quintessential el pueblo unido jamas sera vencido! (the people united will never be defeated!) with the rest of the crowd following suit. For a while it felt like we were in a large workers’ rally in Latin America. The atmosphere wasn’t just agitating, it was also, in a way, festive and celebratory–different sectors of society coming together to reaffirm the role of workers and their collective strength. On a very shallow level, it was also quite fun trying out all the street food that dozens of ambulant vendors were selling at Liwasang Bonifacio, while re-acquainting yourself with colleagues from different youth organizations and taking photos.

Labor Day in Manila ’09 (Part 2)

Labor Day or Mayo Uno 2009 was also a day when Filipino workers’ organizations and unions, together with allied organizations, reiterated and reaffirmed the call for the approval of the P125 across-the-board wage increase which the government has slept on for the past decade, despite the fact that even if it was approved today, it would already be short of the average cost of living. The government and big business line, of course, is to equate wage hikes with job cuts and to ultimately pit jobs and wages against each other, where the contradiction is not supposed to exist.

Contrary to claims of government officials in cahoots with big businesses, a P125 wage increase is doable. Just look at the profit margins of any big business in the country. An IBON Foundation study, for one, claims that “the increasing labor productivity of local workers, or the ratio of national output to employment, has been steadily increasing over the past decade.” It added that “between 1999 and 2006, labor productivity has increased by 56.3% in nominal terms and 13.1% in real terms (taking inflation into account). This shows that employers could afford to grant the P125 wage hike, which would necessarily trim their profit margin but will certainly not push them to bankruptcy.”

The unwillingness of government and big businesses to pay their workers decent wages, is simply a manifestation of, aside form the excessive greed of CEO’s and capitalist junkies, the inherent unjust character of the current capitalist order. From Quiapo, the demonstrators proceeded across Quezon Bridge onto Liwasang Bonifacio, where the annual Labor Day program, led by KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno) and Anakpawis, is held.

Labor Day in Manila ’09 (Part 1)

Last May 1 was International Workers’ Day, a day when workers around the world and allied sectors of society demonstrate their collective strength and their collective call for better wages and better working and living conditions. Here in the Philippines, storms of protest all over the nation marked Labor Day as calls to stop the retrenchment and wage cuts resounded in the streets.

In Manila, tens of thousands converged along Espana and marched to Liwasang Bonifacio. It was my second Labor Day rally. My first one was back in 2007. My friends from UP, colleagues from Kabataan Party and I started our Labor Day participation with a protest action at Philcoa at noon, together with residents of communities around UP and jeepney drivers in campus.

Past noon, we took jeepneys to the rally’s assembly point along Espana, near the University of Sto. Tomas. For an hour or so, people from various groups and sectors converged until our numbers swelled to the thousands. I was carrying a flag of Kabataan Party from Espana till past the Quezon Boulevard Underpass when a colleague of mine took my flag so that I could take photos of the march to Liwasang Bonifacio. I raced up to one of the pedestrian overpasses in Quiapo and took shots of the long march. Indeed, the entire stretch of Quezon Boulevard from the underpass to the bridge was filled with demonstrators. Images like these one don’t usually get to see in traditional media.

[with news reports from]

On BBC’s Harry and Paul “Filipina maid” controversy

October 7, 2008. I don’t understand why we’re raising hell for a comedic portrayal of a “Filipina maid” when for the longest time we’ve been portraying maids, house-helpers, yayas and countless Indays in our own comedy shows and movies the same way, even worse. I think we Filipinos are even worse at having our own stereotypes of foreign races and occupations. Imagine if all the Indians or the dark-skinned races raised howl over how many of us stereotype them. The portrayal doesn’t even claim to be a the British’s general perception of Filipinos. It’s a comedy show for pete’s sake, with a comedic sketch of a perceived condition among Filipino domestic helpers. If there’s one to be faulted with such a sad reality, or a perception of it rather, it should be the proximate cause of the phenomenon–the government.

Even more disappointing is how the congresswoman from Akbayan is riding the issue to get mileage among domestic workers. Sa isang taon pa po ang eleksyon. If we’re to raise hell, which I believe is not totally unjustified, we need to transcend mere demands for an apology from the BBC or from the British government. We must demand accountability from our own government for its failure to protect our domestic workers abroad, and for its failure to create jobs that has pushed so many Filipinos into such situations. I don’t think foreigners can be solely faulted for their perception of Filipino domestic workers. We can’t expect them to know any better. Let’s condemn the reality and its causes, not its mere manifestation in a comedy show! And while we’re at it, let’s demand our own television networks and film producers not to portray domestic workers the same way. And stop forwarding Inday jokes. Treat your househelp better. ‘Wag pa-ipokrito.

On the Kowloon Restaurant workers’ strike

Kowloon Restaurant’s greasy pancit canton is a actually a favorite of mine but I would now have to hold back to help compel the restaurant’s owners to make amends for the exploitation of their workers.

[Re-posted from Anton Dulce’s Multiply site] Before June of this year, the Kowloon management refused to pay the minimum wage which was mandated by law. In fact, it did not follow the three most-recent wage hikes, amounting to 82 pesos. As a result, while other workers were already receiving at least P382 a day, the workers of Kowloon only got home P300. To pressure management into giving them something which the law already mandated as theirs yet which management refused to give, the workers wore black ribbons at work in a single day last June. But instead of listening to the workers, management instead reprimanded them, especially the union leaders.

Afterwards, they decided to hold a “picket protest” after their work hours and away from any locations that would result in disruptions in operations. Afterwards, management decided to hold negotiations with the union. But secretly, they filed a case of “illegal strike” against the workers at the NLRC (National Labor Relations Commission). So when management did agree to raise their wages to P377 a day, the workers only enjoyed this wage hike for one pay day. Why? Because the other Saturday, all 73 members of the union were fired.

Meanwhile, the contractual workers of Kowloon receive only P250 a day. All of this is ironic because Kowloon could easily pay for the demands of the workers. After all, the owners of the restaurant never applied for “exemption” from the minimum wage, something the law affords to businesses that can’t afford to pay the minimum wage to its workers without going bankrupt. A lot of local businesses do that, but Kowloon never did. Its either they simply can afford to pay the minimum wage, or the owners of the restaurant have a severe case of amnesia (selective that is).

To illustrate their point, the workers calculated the amount in backwages (the amount of wages which all workers in Kowloon should have received if management had obeyed the three most-recent wage hikes). They then compared it to the sales for a SINGLE product of the restaurant: the siopao. Their calculations showed that the total backwages owed to all the workers was more than equalled by Kowloon sales for siopaos in only 11 days!

If this is greed at its worst, then the NLRC is stupidity exemplified. It ruled in favor of Kowloon management, agreeing that the workers indeed held an “illegal strike”. How could that have happened? Could it be possible that someone from NLRC forget that the definition of a “strike” is a stoppage of work? How could there have been a strike, when the workers protested outside of their work hours? As of my writing, the workers of Kowloon have already established their picket line.

To confront these unarmed and hungry workers, management has hired so many security guards that they virtually equal the number of striking workers. Who has heard of a restaurant with 20-30 security guards? The only restaurants that I know that have such a number are those in the movies that house activities of the Mafia. Come to think of it, its appropriate. The Kowloon management’s greed and dishonesty in dealing with the workers can only be described as nothing short of “criminal”. And like everything in the Philippines, the Government sides with the thieves, not the theft victims. The Phil. National Police keeps a few cops on the scene at the ready… to disperse the picketline should there be a moment where no outsiders will intervene. Members of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Phils. have installed a security camera near the picket line, an obvious attempt to harrass students and youths who have regularly visited the picket line in the past few days to show their support to the workers. This is something which should never be tolerated, and has no place in just society.

I urge everyone, my relatives, friends, classmates, schoolmates, casual acquaintances, “online buddies”, and anyone else who is reading this, to adopt the cause of the Kowloon workers as if it was their own. Because like in the time of Hitler, the best accomplice of evil are those who keep silent and remain apathetic.

Tell everyone you know to boycott Kowloon Restaurant until it agrees to take back the 73 laid-off workers. The best way to hurt greedy people is by denying them our money. Repost an online version of their statement all over the internet, write blog entries, post in message boards, and send emails, all regarding this issue. Donate money so they can sustain their strike. Its not easy to feed 73 people especially when they all just recently lost their jobs. If you belong to an organization, have your org make it an activity of theirs to raise funds for the strikers. Visit the picket line and show your support. As the workers in my previous visits have told me, the morale support they get from us is priceless to them. In a system that stacks everything against them, our support really matters. And aside from that, the constant pressure of youths and students constantly raising hell at the picket line has created negative publicity towards the restaurant, forcing management to promise to hold a dialogue. Have your organization, barkada, block, church, family, or whatever, to support the workers.

Not just about higher wages

Yes, instead of trooping to the cinemas to see Spider-Man 3 on its first official screening day, I went to Manila, together with some friends from UP and fellow members of Kabataan Party, to join the annual Labor Day celebration and protest of thousands of workers and activists. It was my first May 1 mobilization.

Marching under the scorching heat of the afternoon sun is torture. But all’s well in registration of one’s protest against a system that cares more for its capitalists and investors than and at the expense of its workers.